Hari Dass (1923 - ) Came to the West: 1971
The "Silent Master" Baba Hari Dass teaches a traditional version of eightlimbed (ashtanga) yoga at his Mount Madonna Center in California. He hasn't spoken since 1952 and uses a chalkboard to communicate. If there is any scandal attached to Hari Dass it has been kept as quiet as the man himself.
He left home at 8 years old to become a wandering sadhu. He learnt from a local brick-layer and had a talent for building and his story includes his work on several ashrams and temples. From 1954 until 1968 he spent 14 years associated with Neem Karoli Baba. He was appointed the main teacher of Ram Dass for five months but transforming Richard Alpert into an ascetic yogi was a task too difficult even for Hari Dass. Hari Dass left Neem Karoli's ashram under circumstances which have not been clarified though Hari Dass' wish for a structured disciplined environment and interpersonal problems appear to be the reasons. In 1970 a group of American friends and students of Ruth Johnson-Horsting, a sculptor and a professor of Arts at the University of California in Davis, who were interested in traditional Yoga went to India and invited Hari Dass to come to the USA. Ms Johnson-Horsting who had taken early retirement after a family tragedy sponsored Hari Dass and became one of his his most prominent students known to others as "Ma Renu."
Hari Dass has inspired the creation of a mini yoga-and-Hindu-empire in California. He is slowly dying after have suffered a "neurological condition" though his devotees have not provided specific information in their five years of regular health updates posted on babaharidass.org. One presumes he had a stroke or something similar. The Hanuman Fellowship is not paying for Dass' care following his stroke in 2013 as this is being financed by donations. A non-profit organisation cannot pay to support a single individual. Hari Dass would probably have become more influential if the section extolling him had not been removed from Be Here Now at the orders of Neem Karoli Baba. Professional jealousy maybe?
"I was taken back to the temple. It was interesting. At no time was I asked, do you want to stay? Do you want to study? Everything was understood, there were no contracts. There were no promises. there were no vows, there was nothing.
The next day Maharaji instructed them to take me out and buy me clothes. they gave me a room. Nobody ever asked me for a nickle. Nobody asked me to spread the word. And that day I met a man who was to become my teacher, Baba Hari Dass.
Hari Dass Baba is quite an incredible fellow, as I found out. I spent 5 months under his tutelage. He is 48 years old. He weighs 90 pounds. He is a jungle sadhu, he went to the jungle when he was 8 years old. He is silent (mauna). He has been mauna for 15 years. He writes with a chalkboard. He only uses His voice to sing holy songs. He reads and writes Chinese, English, French & Hindi. He taught me always in beautiful English.
Hari Dass Baba - this little 90 pound fellow - achitecturally designed all of the temples and schools, supervised all the buildings and grounds, had many followers of His own, slept 2 hours a nite, His food intake for the last 15 years had been 2 glasses of milk a day. Thats it. His feces are like 2 small marbles each day. His arms are about this big around, tiny, but when the workmen can't lift a particularly heavy rock, they call for "Chota Maharaj" - the little great king. As in a comic strip, He goes over and lifts the rock, just with one pointedness of mind …" - section removed from Be Here Now
His main centre is the Mount Madonna Center "a learning community inspired by the example of our teacher, Baba Hari Dass. Located on 355 acres of redwoods and grasslands, our peaceful haven is a place where you can step back, slow down, and reconnect to your center, to nature, and to a more authentic flow of life." The Mount Madonna practice includes vegetarian diet, purifications, devotional singing, rituals, mudras, a traditional fire ceremony, selfless service, meditation, and hatha yoga and the selling thereof.
Hari Dass' disciples finance an orphanage in India which houses 50 children. A drop in the bucket but worthwhile, nevertheless.
He has published many books including translations of Hindu classics.
I can't help but wonder what might have happened if all the Eastern religious teachers of the past 60 years had emulated Hari Dass.
The guru is none other than Brahma, the creator.
The guru is none other than Vishnu, the preserver.
The guru is none other than the great god Shiva, the destroyer.
The guru is verily Brahman (the absolute) itself.
To the divine guru I bow.
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